This Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, New England hosts the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, who are 5-0 thanks mostly to their prolific offense.
Led by second-year QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have already gained more than 2,000 yards of offense, and average of more than 400 per game. Mahomes has thrown for 1,513 yards and 14 touchdowns, with just a pair of interceptions. He’s been sacked just six times.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, running back Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce are K.C.’s top playmakers surrounding Mahomes.
“You look at a guy like Mahomes, with the weapons they have, you just have to make sure you’re [covering] somebody,” observed cornerback Jason McCourty. “You should never – even in our zones – you never want to be just floating in space because, whether he’s rolling to one side or the other, he can fire that thing back to the other side. It’s up to us to make sure we’re on guys, man-to-man or zone.”
The Chiefs’ offense is even more difficult to defend because of its various pre-snap motioning, misdirection plays, and run-pass-option (RPO) elements.
“It’s challenging,” safety Duron Harmon acknowledged, “because you don’t know what they’re going to do. So, you’ve just got to prepare for it all. You now there’s going to be something you haven’t seen before, so, you have to go back to your basic rules and play with good fundamentals and technique.
“It starts with communication, making sure everyone’s on the same page, and being disciplined enough to do our job.”
The offense, of course, flows through Mahomes, who’s off to a scintillating start as to 2018. He’s set NFL records for most touchdown passes thrown over the first two games of a season (10), most through three games (13), and became the youngest QB ever to throw for six touchdowns in a game (just one day shy of his 23rd birthday).
Part of what makes him so clinical is his ability to complete passes from inside the pocket or while scrambling out of it.
“He’s on fire, looking great, like he’s been playing in the league for a few years,” remarked linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “He’s a dynamic player with a great arm. We have to do a good job of making things difficult for him, as far as reading things, being more hands-on and disrupting those receivers. Maybe giving him some things he hasn’t seen before.”
“We just want to keep him in the pocket,” maintained defensive end Trey Flowers. “He can make a play either way he goes. We’ll just try to contain him, get some pressure up the middle. We’ve got to be disciplined in the early downs and make them as uncomfortable as possible. We need guys pursuing to the ball because they have a lot of guys that can make plays in space.”
“We know what we have to do,” added Harmon, “but it’s always harder doing it, especially with a guy like that.”
New England returned to its practice fields Tuesday, with players wearing shells (lighter, smaller shoulder pads) for an extra day of practice in advance of Sunday night’s Chiefs game. Every player on both the 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad was dressed and taking part at least on a limited basis.
That was good news for CB Eric Rowe (groin), making his first on-field appearance since Week 2, and defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who couldn’t finish the Colts game in Week 4 due to a left knee injury.
The Patriots had one opening on their practice squad, which they filled with running back Kenny Farrow, who's already had a couple of stints with the team this season.